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Boko Haram: When silence is golden

By Sunny Ikhioya

THE  battle against insurgency all over the world is a huge task. Those who have assumed otherwise tried it and got their fingers burnt, including our own Nigeria. We have seen it in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Mali and many others. It is an asymmetric warfare, which means; it is not the conventional or normal type of war, because it is not ground battle, where both armies are able to gauge their abilities  to determine strategies and strength. In this case, you do not even know who the enemy is. As a result, you cannot claim victory until the activities of the enemy are totally eradicated, that is they cease to exist because they are not heard or seen any more.

The Boko Haram terror group has wormed its way to be amongst the topmost terrorist groups in the world, there is nothing the Nigerian government and its army have not done to bring it to its knees – air raids, ground troops, mercenary fighters, international surveillance  and cooperation and so on. The group has simply become an enigma.

Nobody expected magic or immediate result when this government took over control of the affairs of state but the leadership forgot that ‘discretion’ as they say, ‘is the better part of valour.’ Thus,  we have seen loose canons, released from all sides of their mouths, promising heaven on earth, promises they know that they cannot fulfill. It is only in a country like ours that a military will totally destroy existing structures and systems when a new government assumes office. It is in Nigeria that a fellow officer will destroy the works of his predecessors, so that those in office will see that he is working. Consequently, whatever gains that had been achieved before now are reversed.

This has been one of the reasons for our failure in the Boko Haram war. It is a situation of ‘dog eat dog’. The bond that had existed, esprit de corps, amongst the soldiers, has been severed. It is now everyman to himself, for greed and self preservation, each one wants to outdo the other. What this amounts to is all motion and no movement. If you ask me, it is a terrible  situation that we have found ourselves in. It has even extended to inter- agency battle of supremacy, as witnessed between the Departmant of State Services, DSS, and Economic and Finance Crimes Commission, EFFC. When a house is divided, how can it stand? Until we achieve unity, peace and cooperation amongst our soldiers, until the armed forces restore  esprit de corps, our war on Boko Haram will continue to experience roadblocks.

It is beginning to dawn on all that, it is not the talk or propaganda that makes things work but the actions taken and results achieved. Now that we are faced with new realities, it is time to start afresh, that is if the administration is not too shy to admit its mistakes. There is a saying that, no matter how long and far  one  has travelled on the wrong path, it is never too late to do a turn around, and retrace your steps. So, the administration should not feel ashamed about its position in the ongoing war but it must learn to accord the enemy respect. It must learn to deal with  Boko Haram with humility. Even the mighty USA and its allies have not been able to totally subdue ISIS and Al-qaeda organisations. Sometimes, silence is golden. When strategies are debated and talked about in the media, it goes without saying that defeat is only a distance away just as it has happened with the Dapchi girls.

After the army had come out thumping its chest, announcing the total decimation of Boko Haram, the insurgents sneaked in to deliver a massive blow to our efforts. War is not won on propaganda alone. In fact, no war is ever won without proper planning – logistics, surveillance, intelligence, equipment, bravery of troops, leadership and so on. The challenge of Boko Haram is such that, from their mode of operation, it is quite obvious they have moles in the army, Those who have been placed in the position to confront them are sympathisers to the group’s cause or even members. Hence, the selected killings of some of our gallant officers.

The question is; who identifies these gallant officers for killing by the group? This is another challenge that we face in this war. We cannot fight the insurgency  without the people who live there. The Americans decided to fight the terrorists by proxy, using the locals – Iraqis, Kurds, others – to fight the ground battles. You cannot fight in a terrain that you do not understand and within hostile communities. You will  never win.

The solution is in recruiting the ground troops from amongst the locals. The fight must begin with all emirs and heads of communities in the entire north, to come and identify openly with the Federal Government’s efforts. It is a battle that everyone must fight, beginning with grassroots sensitisation.

It is time for those in control of government to adopt the quiet approach, as it concerns the Boko Haram war. No situation is more embarrassing than for an army to come out and declare to the whole world that it has won a battle and the next day, the enemy comes out in the open to deal the worst blow. You do not announce that you have won the battle until the enemy is totally silenced. You do not win by comparing  today with the past, your promise was to totally crush Boko Haram, which the previous administration could not do and one of the reasons they were flushed out of office. The war on Boko Haram is not a propaganda,  so our army must fight it as quietly and as intelligently as possible, with the cooperation of our neighbours.

*Mr. Ikhioya,
Twitter: @SunnyIkhioya



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